Challenges and Virtues of the Digital Classroom

The response to the Coronavirus pandemic has encompassed many changes in our respective daily lives in a very short time. Social distancing, sheltering in place, stay-at-home quarantines to reduce the spread of the virus are now a regular part of everyday life and will be for the foreseeable future.

Such aspects of life were bound to eventually affect learning environments within our own institutions. Colleges and universities all over the world are evolving to accommodate what remains a very fluid situation.

Educators and administrators with little advance notice are working quickly to make this happen and communicate plans with students. The majority of ACBSP member campuses have responded to the worldwide spread of COVID-19 by closing their physical campuses and transitioning face-to-face classes. 

The most important change that our members have been facing is how we carry our teaching responsibilities through remote teaching. Higher education is poised to be a shining example of how to responsibly and successfully transition in response to the pandemic.

One of the best parts about teaching at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) is that my work lets me bridge the gap between YouTube learners and the traditional in-person classroom. During my career at CNM, I have made the full shift from rooms filled with students to virtual classrooms and online instruction. For better or worse, this adjustment is one that many instructors have recently made on the fly due to Covid-19 and may have to continue this fall. The plans for what colleges and universities will execute during the upcoming academic year will require professors to adjust, and I want to highlight some of the benefits I that may emerge as institutions adjust to the pandemic.

To be sure, there is no national template for how schools will function once summer concludes. In April, Inside Higher Ed offered “15 Fall Scenarios” for how higher education might look later this year. In May, the same publication partnered with a website for prospective students. Niche, the online resource that surveyed the students, consolidated the 15 scenarios into 10, and here are the results:

OptionsAppealingUnappealingUnsure
In-person classes78%10%12%
Flexible block schedule51%16%33%
In person and online (simultaneously)53%24%23%
Structured gap year36%39%25%
First-year students on campus, upper-class students learn online23%50%27%
Core classes taught on campus, other classes online34%42%24%
Students learn online with a few face-to-face experiences32%50%18%
Students live on campus but take classes online28%54%19%
Online learning29%56%16%
Delay start of fall semester12%70%17%

There is plenty to digest in the survey. Though the surveyed students may want to be on campus in the fall, there will be institutions that will remain online to prioritize public health. As such, it will be essential to maximize flexibility moving forward, and this is likely to include an element of online instruction to accommodate students and faculty. For instructors coming at this issue from a traditional classroom, I encourage you to look at how community colleges have been focusing on flexibility and what you might be able to incorporate into your post-quarantine instruction. 

Here are some tips to prioritize your own personal approach: 

  • Remember the Benefits
    It may be easy for those of you who prefer in-class instruction to grow frustrated by online instruction. It can be a challenging transition that includes hurdles that differ from the traditional classroom. But the benefits exist, as well. You have greater control of your schedule and the work you do before class can free your schedule in ways unimaginable in the traditional Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule. It’s important to look for the good when the ideal is not available.

“It’s important to look for the good when the ideal is not available.”

  • Join the Class
    The Banking Method of Teaching has even more shortcomings for online learning and largely eliminates the benefits. Even for learners accustomed to watching YouTube for instruction, the platform is still social media. If you expect your students to engage in the online arena, then you need to join them to promote interaction. To do so effectively, you need to have the humility to be a learner along with the students.
  • Expand the Content
    As an extension to remembering the benefits, there are an incredible number of resources you can incorporate into the syllabus. That YouTube learner may be able to use an online video that you help them interact with to draw out even more learning. You can use guest lecturers through your online platform to lend another voice to the discussion. Some professors have even incorporated educational video games as part of their instruction. These are techniques that can work better online than in the classroom.
  • Take the Online Offline
    As flexible (and socially distanced) as online learning can be, it is important to encourage students to avoid being permanently social distanced. There are numerous suggestions that too much screen time is detrimental to people’s mental health and well-being, so look for opportunities to apply the content in the real world. This goal is more challenging as people remain separated from each other, but keep it as a goal to bring the learning into different settings than just the online arena.

As we all seek to understand this changing landscape, ACBSP remains committed to providing tools and resources to help our members navigate this challenge. To that end, our Transnational Journal of Business (TJB) has announced a special Call for Papers regarding the theme, “Reflections on the Covid Crisis—Transitions from Classrooms to Quarantine.”

Selected essays will become part of a special TJB issue to be published in early August 2020. Possible topics include technology challenges and solutions; pedagogical strategies; student challenges and perspectives; emotions and adjustments. Submissions should be between 1,000-1,500 words. The deadline to submit essays is July 1, 2020. To submit an essay or for more information, please contact Managing Editor Justin Matus at justin.matus@wilkes.edu or 570.762.3640.

We know that all our members are facing a number of challenges at this time. But we also know that you are well equipped to pursue and achieve excellence in the classroom and beyond. As you and your institution create solutions to this new era of education, I hope you will join me in sharing the lessons you have learned.

You are the heart of our organization and I send my best wishes for your health and well-being.

Kim Wong, Chair, ACBSP Board of Directors


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